When you think of the term “self-care,” a woman in a bathrobe lighting candles and painting her toenails might come to mind. While this may seem amazing to some, most men would probably have different desires.
The truth is, men need to work especially hard to take charge of caring for themselves. After all, is there anything more manly than being independent in your ability to care for yourself, not just physically, but emotionally and tangibly?
We also need to change the way we think of “actualized manhood” in modern times. Instead of defining ourselves only in terms of work, productivity, and the overall “get” mentality, we must embrace other parts of ourselves that make us who we are and most importantly, make us happy.
So without further delay, here are five ways for the modern man to practice self-care.
1. Make time for yourself.
The first step to proper self-care is making time for it. It’s easy to get caught up in your daily routine and fall victim to the idea that you don’t need to reserve any kind of special time for yourself when there are other more important things to do, such as providing for your family. But making self-care a priority is essential. This is not to say that you need to devote half of your day to a yoga class and sipping tea; self-care can be practiced virtually anywhere, depending on what type you are engaging in. For example, maybe you really enjoy music, and can listen to your favorite album on your daily commute. Alternatively, maybe you know you feel better physically and mentally when you take a few hours a week to get to the gym. Making time for yourself isn’t selfish, it is necessary to being at your best, which inherently seeps into every other aspect of your life.
2. Engage with others.
Making time to engage with the people in your life that you care about, and that respect and love you is an important aspect of self-care. Maintaining meaningful relationships has been shown to positively influence mental health. Such relationships offer both the opportunity to share aspects of your own life, as well as escape from your day to day routine and do something out of the ordinary. Spending time maintaining and developing romantic relationships as well can increase both the vitality of the relationship, as well as your well-being, mood, and productivity.
3. Embrace health (both physical and mental).
Being cognizant of both your physical and mental health are pillars of self-care. From the basics—making yearly doctors’ appointments with both your primary care physician and specialists—to more daily tasks like checking in with yourself, your health needs to be a priority in your life. Psychologically, this might mean taking a few minutes before you go to sleep, or when you wake up in the morning, to take stock of how you’re feeling, and make plans to remedy any issues you may come upon. For example, are you feeling incredibly stressed out about work? Are you having a hard time turning of your brain to get a good night’s sleep? Are you engaging in unproductive worry? There are tangible steps to help each of these things, from mindfulness practices, to engaging with a mental health professional; staying on top of your mental as well as physical health can be nothing but beneficial in the long run.
4. Find passion and connection.
Identifying and engaging with things that interest or spark passion in your life is another important aspect of self-care. For example, is there a particular magazine or newspaper that you enjoy reading articles from? Do you love watching professional soccer? Or is nature more what gets you going? Making time to engage in these activities, whatever they may be, is important to build into your schedule, even if in small increments. Knowing what brings you joy, and being proactive about practicing or engaging with these aspects of your life has been shown to increase well-being.
5. Know your burnout signs.
Taking note of when you are not feeling yourself can help you decide when self-care may be especially beneficial to avoiding burn out, or reaching a mental or physical state that would take you some time to recover from. For example, did you just get irrationally angry at someone on the subway who brushed against your arm? Or do you feel completely wiped out by the end of the day to the point that you can’t even speak to your wife or enjoy spending time with your children? Little signs like this, whether it be a short temper or exhaustion, that will of course be different for everyone, can help identify when it may be time for either a mental health day, or for those whose schedules do not allow that luxury, a half hour or so to yourself, doing something that you know helps you “reset.”
Self-care isn’t just an activity you can build into your daily life. It’s a mindset that we all should embody, involving putting ourselves first, and checking in with ourselves on a regular basis to help put our best foot forward in everything we do.
Konstantin Lukin, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in Ridgewood and Hoboken, NJ. He has extensive clinical and research experience spanning individuals of all ages, in both inpatient and outpatient settings. He specializes in men’s issues, couple’s counseling, and relationship problems. His therapeutic approach focuses on providing support and practical feedback to help patients effectively address personal challenges. He integrates complementary modalities and techniques to offer a personalized approach tailored to each patient. He has been trained in cognitive-behavioral, dialectical behavior, schema-focused, and emotionally focused therapy, and has also been involved with research projects throughout his career, including two National Institute of Mental Health-funded studies. He is a member of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, New Jersey Psychological Association, Northeast Counties Association of Psychologists, New York State Psychological Association, The International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy, The New York Center for Emotionally Focused Therapy, the International OCD Foundation, the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ACSB) and a regular contributor to Psychology Today.